4.5 Stars for a great fantasy read.
I had the great pleasure of being a beta reader for Red Tide, the third book of The Chronicles of the Exile, and I can honestly say it is Marc Turner best book yet. Normally I wouldn't share a review so far in advance of the publication, but I wanted to capture (and share) a few of my thoughts while they are still fresh in my mind.
Look for a more comprehensive review closer to the publication date.
Taking place almost immediately on the heels of Dragon Hunters, this is a story that reaches back to connect with some of the characters and stores of When the Heavens Fall. It's the book in the series where everything begins to come together, and where we begin to see hints of the bigger picture into which all the pieces will eventually fit.
My first impression of Red Tide was that it's a more human tale, less about gods and monsters than first two books, which fits with the conflict at the heart of the story. Pacing wise, this was a pretty even book. The first chapters are a bit slow, but there are a lot of characters to bring together, and several story lines (both new and existing) to connect. Once the story hits the half-way mark, it just barrels along, carrying the reader with it. In terms of narrative, it's a smoother book as well, with cleaner transitions between scenes and points-of-view that just better, giving the story a truly seamless feel.
Earlier this year I read the debut and first book in a new fantasy series by Marc Turner. It was only after I almost finished the book that I realized how much I'd come to like it. You can find my thoughts and review here.
Together with the book was released this short story set in the same universe. I decided to wait some time to read it so as to make the waiting between the first and second book a bit shorter. Since it's now about halfway between the books, it was a good moment.
If you want to read the story, you can find it online for free on the Tor website: http://www.tor.com/2015/04/21/theres-a-devil-watching-over-you/ or if you prefer an audio version, this is available on the authors blog: http://www.marcturner.net/blog?view=entry&id=5
I really liked this short story. It felt good to be back in that universe and now I'm really looking forward to the next book, which is unfortunately, still four months away. I think this might be one of those fantasy series that I'll be following for the next years.
There's A Devil Watching Over You is a short story set in the universe of The Chronicle of the Exile. The first book in this series is When The Heavens Fall, and the second, Dragon Hunters, is going to be published next year.
I’m one of those readers who let this novel slip by when it was first released. A fact which seems odd, because – with its huge world, multi-thread narrative, and grimdark tinged story – it is exactly the sort of fantasy I tend to look for. And I never would have had a second thought about passing it up if I had not begun seeing reviews about it. Not all of those were five star reviews, truth be told, and some of the reviewers were not glowingly complimentary of the story, but I heard enough to know I had to get my hands on it and give it a try.
Out of the gate, When the Heavens Fall didn’t seem different than many traditional quest story I’d experienced. Maybe a bit more dark and brooding, but otherwise very familiar. Basically, we have a former Guardian (think kickass magical warrior-type) named Luker returning to a city he had left long ago. Once there he immediately finds that the reason he left (think political machinations of a ruler) have grown worse during his self-imposed exile, resulting in the Guardians’ numbers and power waning dangerously. But that really doesn’t concern Luker. What he has come back for is to head up a search party for his mentor (think father figure) who disappeared trying to apprehend a rogue mage named Mayot Mencada and retrieve a powerful artifact – a relic ominously dubbed the Book of Lost Souls.
Okay, I have to admit this sounded really interesting. Guess, I’m a sucker for quest fantasy. And as Mr. Turner began getting his quest group together and sending them out into this huge world I was really excited. Then Mr. Turner pulled the rug out from under me. The story shifting focus to three different characters, who have nothing to do with Luker’s group, or its quest, as well as being in three totally different part of the world.
The first locale is a small kingdom on the edge of the Forest of Sighs. This land fights constantly against the intrusion of the ferocious forest tribes and the wood’s haunted spirits, and as the heir to its throne, Ebon is on the front lines protecting his people – even as he waits for the reigns of rulership to pass into his hands. But though he presents a brave face to the world, our young lord is haunted by fear – a deep seated fear that the forest spirits will once again take over his mind, driving him back into the state of insanity that he only too recently emerged from. And this apprehension is beginning to grow as the realization sets in that there is a power stirring in the forest that might be even worse than the spirits themselves.
Across the continent, Parolla is a young woman driven by a seemingly impossible quest. Her dearest desire to uncover a portal to the Lord of Death’s realm and pass through to confront Shroud himself. For this god took someone or something important to her, and she will not rest until she uncovers a way to get it back. And it is this desire that eventually draws her to the Forest of Sighs far to the east, where she senses that death magic itself is being released into the world, drawing with it Shroud’s own servants from across the multiple dimensions.
Lastly, there is the rather pompous, pleasure loving priestess named Romany, follower of the Spider goddess. And when this crafty divinity shows up unexpectedly telling Romany she must go forth on an important and dangerous mission to the Forest of Sighs, the priestess is very happy, mainly because she will not be able to take her daily bubble bath or sample her gourmet chefs meals. But one cannot turn down a god, so off Romany goes to aid a rogue wizard who has a strange artifact that the Spider goddess does not want Shroud to retrieve.
From this multi-threaded story, Mr. Turner weaves an intricate plot which slowly brings Luker, Ebon, Parolla, and Romany to life, unveils more than a few behind-the-scenes power players, and carefully crafts a vivid world in which all these events take place. Naturally, the story eventually draws everyone together for a rousing conclusions. All of it done in a style that other reviewers have compared to Steven Erikson. Not having had the pleasure to sample Mr. Erickson (He is on my to-be-read list) I can’t say with certain if the comparisons are true, but from what I have heard about the Malazan series, it seems very similar to When the Heavens Fall, which might or might not be a good thing according to your perspective.
As for me, I have to admit finding the beginning of the novel slow; the constant shifts between characters halting any reading momentum I’d built up and keeping me from fully investing in each person’s story. The fact that so much background, geography, and lore was also interwoven into those initial chapters really made me feel like I was drowning in a fantasy information ocean. But as the tale moved along and I became familiar with everyone and everything, those problems mostly disappeared -- though, obviously, I did have my favorite characters and wished more of my time was spent with them as opposed to others.
All in all, I enjoyed When the Heavens Fall. Sure, it was a difficult story to get into, but the payoff was very rewarding. This is a dark, epic novel. One filled with complex necromancy, dark sorcery and more than a few monsters and gods. There are heroes and villains, intrigue and combat, mystery and magic; all of it set in a very intricately detailed world with a living history that springs to life before your eyes. And the four main characters who carry you through this initial foray into Mr. Turner’s fantasy land each see this struggle in very different ways, forcing you to recall everything you’ve read and make choices regarding who is right and who is wrong in it all. Yes, the web Mr. Turner weaves her is large and complex, but if you have the patience to stay with it, everything slowly clicks into place like a huge jigsaw puzzle being solved and ends with a truly mesmerizing conclusion.
Tor provided this book to me for free in return for an honest review. The review above was not paid for or influenced in any way by any person, entity or organization, but is my own personal opinions.
I first read the first few chapters when they were put on Netgalley and I thought it was the complete book. After my initial disappointment I was very happy when I was later contacted and they asked me if I wanted to read the entire book. Of course I wanted this, as I had enjoyed the first chapters (even though I didn't understand too much about it).
Although I'm a bit inexperienced when it comes to large fantasy sagas (it's usually more like Game of Thrones), this was different from what I've read before, but in a good way. A simple act, a burglary in a temple will have major consequences, not unlike for example in Greek mythology.
Prepare for a large number and characters and shifting POVs. And if you expected to be told what's going on, you're wrong. Don't be afraid of large pieces of exposition because they are not there. Everything you learn is coloured by the character's thoughts and beliefs and you're left to puzzle things together and try to figure out what exactly is going on in that wood. (I'll be honest, it took me some time).
After the first few chapters I didn't understand what the book was about really, but I did like the fact that the Gods in this book, who ever they may be or represent actively mingle in the lives of the mortals while all the same hiding cowardly behind them. Exactly who or what the Spider is, I still don't know after reading the complete book. I'm however intrigued.
I liked the magic. It was complicated as in it takes a lot of time to figure it out, and more importantly, it's not just some ex machina solution to the hero's every problem. There are Elemental mages, necromancers, people sucking the live right out of people, a bunch of people not entirely good or bad but with one thing in common: they all have their own reasons to come look for the book. O, and their is an entire civilization of warrior zombies.
I didn't think I would enjoy it as much as I did. It was not a fast read, but I enjoyed every page. I'm really looking forward to the next book in this series!
When The Heavens Fall is the first book in the Chronicle of the Exile series. The second book, Dragon Hunters is expected to be published next year.
Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!